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PHOENIX, Arizona – The Tucson Sugar Skulls went toe-to-toe with the unbeaten Arizona Rattlers for 60 minutes, but it wasn’t quite enough when the game went to overtime.

Arizona Coach Kevin Guy called for a two-point conversion trailing by one in overtime, and quarterback Drew Powell ran into the corner of the end zone to stop the Sugar Skulls’ upset bid,50-49, in front of a crowd of 13,755 at Talking Stick Resort Arena.

It was the Sugar Skulls’ last of four chances to make a mark on the Rattlers’ record, and it was the hardest Arizona had to work in the four meetings, having won the first three games by double digits.

The Sugar Skulls now head to the last week of the the regular season and their final home game with one thing in mind – the Quad City Steamwheelers. A victory at Tucson Arena on Saturday and theSugar Skulls are in the playoffs in the first year of the franchise. A loss and they are edged out of the six playoffs spots.

“We played with heart and I hope they understand this is how they’re capable of playing every weekend,” Head Coach Marcus Coleman said of his team. “We thought we had a good game plan coming in. Win or lose, I wanted to see our team play a complete ball game and I thought we did that. They just made one more play than we did.”Tucson built a 35-14 first-half lead behind the arm and legs of quarterback Jake Medlock. Medlock ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more in the first half.

The Sugar Skulls added a touchdown on a fake goal to build the lead. But the Rattlers responded with a kick return for a touchdown after the last Sugar Skulls score to trim the lead to 14 at the half.

The Rattlers defense stiffened in the third quarter, holding the Sugar Skulls scoreless, and the two teams went into the fourth quarter tied at 35. Both teams scored in the first five minutes of the quarter then both defenses held up and the game went to overtime. Running back Mike Jones put the Sugar Skulls in front when he bulled his way into the end zone from four yards out. The extra point by Josh Gable made it 49-42.

The Rattlers took three plays to score on their possession and then came the call to go for two. Powell took the snap and swept to the right corner of the end zone for the win. The task is now simple for the Sugar Skulls’ playoff hopes – win and they’re in.“Quad City is next,” Coleman said. “We’ve got to go back to work as coaches. I’m ready to accept that challenge and I know our guys are too.”The Sugar Skulls and Steamwheelers go into Saturday’s game with identical 6-7 records.

The winner is the playoffs. The Steamwheelers can still get in with a loss if the Nebraska Danger loses to the Iowa Barnstormers next week as Quad City holds the tiebreaker over the Danger by virtue of a win in their only regular-season meeting.

Saturday’s game at 6 p.m. at Tucson Arena is Fan Appreciation Night. Ticket prices have been reduced to as low as $10. The first 3,000 fans will get a set of Thundersticks sponsored by GenesisOB/GYN. The game is also a blackout and all fans are asked to wear black.

Tickets are available at the Tucson Convention Center box office, by calling the Sugar Skulls office at (520) 573-3000, or at Ticketmaster.

POST GAME NOTES

2019 Sugar Skulls Post Game Notes   Game 13   Arizona Page 01

 

TUCSON, ARIZONA – The Tucson Sugar Skulls have one more shot at their in-state nemesis, the unbeaten Arizona Rattlers, with a playoff berth still on the table when the teams meet Saturday at 5 p.m. at Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix.

With two games left on the regular-season schedule, the Sugar Skulls, 6-6, are in fifth place with a one-game lead over the Nebraska Danger and Quad CitySteamwheelers. If the Sugar Skulls can do what no other team has done this season – beat the Rattlers –and then have Nebraska or Quad City lose this weekend, they are in the playoffs. Barring that, a winner-take-all game for a playoff berth will take place on June 15 when Quad City visits Tucson Arena.

While there are a number of scenarios that can play out over the last two weeks of the IFL season, Sugar Skulls Coach Marcus Coleman has preached to his players that they need to focus on the task at hand – ending the Rattlers’ unbeaten season.

“I’m trying to make sure they know not to listen to anyone outside of our locker room where everyone is saying we only need to win the Quad City game and we’re in the playoffs,” Coleman said. “No, we need to win every game. You can’t depend on winning one game because you never know what happens with everybody else.”

The three games with the Rattlers have been a mixed bag of scenarios that led to the same result. The Sugar Skulls were overwhelmed on March 16 in what was their third game as a franchise. On April 14 in Tucson, a blocked field goal for a Rattlers touchdown and an interception return for a TD was the difference in an otherwise competitive game. In the most recent game, the Rattlers got a couple of defensive stops in the first quarter to build a lead that was never threatened.

“When you play a good team like that you have to be able to close out those games and play those games all the way through,” Coleman said. “Talent isn’t the issue. We’ve shown we can play with them. It’s a matter of us playing a consistent game and playing it all the way through.”

Fresh off their first bye in two months, the Tucson Sugar Skulls will return to action Saturday.

There’s plenty to play for: Tucson (6-6) will take on the league-leading Arizona Rattlers (12-0) on Saturday night in Phoenix with their sights set on making the playoffs. The Rattlers recently routed the Skulls 62-47 at Tucson Arena. Tucson trailed by as many as 23 points to fall to 0-3 this year in the in-state rivalry.

“Arizona came out with the gameplan, ‘We’re going to play bully ball.’ We didn’t accept the challenge until the second half,” said Sugar Skulls quarterback Jake Medlock, who threw for five touchdowns in the loss. “When you play the Rattlers, you have to be perfect because you know they’re going to be perfect so we have to attack it like they do.”

Here’s a look at the postseason picture and other notes from around the Indoor Football League:

Playoff picture: Tucson sits in fifth place in the IFL standings; the top six teams make the playoffs. Win its final two regular-season games, and Tucson is in — possibly as a first-round host.

Win one game, or go 0-2, and things get murky.

Tucson is one game ahead of the Nebraska Danger and Quad City Steamwheelers, both of whom are 5-7 this season. While the Sugar Skulls will play at the undefeated Rattlers, the Danger and Steamwheelers have an easier time: Nebraska will play on the road in San Diego on Thursday, while the Steamwheelers host the Bismarck Bucks. San Diego and Bismarck are a combined 3-21 this season.

Both the Danger and Steamwheelers own tiebreakers against Tucson. The Skulls’ regular-season finale against Quad City at Tucson Arena could determine which of the two teams makes the playoffs.

“We need to do everything we can to win these last two games. … We’re not going to look down the road and look at scenarios,” Tucson coach Marcus Coleman said. “We’re focused on winning, and whatever happens after that, happens.”

Tucson can still host a playoff game, if things break right. The team would have to go 2-0 down the stretch, and the Green Bay Blizzard would have to lose its final two games.

Medlock on hosting a playoff game in Tucson: “Man, it would mean a lot especially to me because I’ve missed the playoffs the last two, three years. It would mean a lot to this community because the Tucson fans have showed up to games every week, filled up the stands and they deserve it more.”

Punch ’em right back: The Sugar Skulls have allowed multiple opponents to rally from second-half deficits this season. That wasn’t the case two weekends ago, when the Rattlers took a 21-9 lead early in the second half and never looked back.

“They were the more physical team that night,” said Coleman. “On both sides of the ball, they bullied us a little bit. I told the guys after the game, ‘Even if you do get hit in the face, you gotta punch someone right back and fight back a little harder.’”

Facing the MVP again: Rattlers quarterback Drew Powell is arguably the top offensive weapon in the IFL. Powell scored seven touchdowns and completed 13 of 15 passes for 180 yards when the teams met two weeks ago. He was efficient in last week’s 56-0 win over Cedar Rapids, completing 4 of 6 passes for 70 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 38 yards and a score. The Rattlers ran just 28 offensive plays; 19 of them were rushing attempts.

Powell’s confidence is what separates him from the other quarterbacks Tucson has faced this season, Coleman said.

“In his mind, he feels like — and he plays like — he’s the best player in the room without a doubt,” Coleman said. “You can see it in warmups, you can see it when he’s sitting on the ground or drinking water. He feels like he can drink the water the best out of anyone in the room. That’s his mindset.

“He continues to show that — and until we can get some guys to adopt some of that, we’re always going to struggle and it’s always going to be uphill.

“For him as a quarterback, when you have that mindset and when you play like it, naturally everyone follows. … That’s what makes him special.”

Postseason relocation for Rattlers: The Rattlers have already secured a first-round playoff bye. When they host a playoff game, it’ll be in Glendale. The team announced Monday that it will play postseason games at Gila River Arena instead of Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix. The Rattlers’ longtime home arena is hosting the Native American Basketball Invitational on June 29 and a Nazarene youth conference on July 13.

“Unfortunately, after being in our building for 27 years, the Rattlers do not get first priority for playoff dates,” Rattlers coach and general manager Kevin Guy said, according to The Arizona Republic.

“My understanding is that other events took precedence. We will embrace the opportunity to play in Gila River Arena … The Rattlers will play anyone, anywhere, anytime, and the Rattlers faithful will follow.”

If playoffs began this week, the winner of the Green Bay-Tucson game would play against the Rattlers in the IFL semifinals, to be held June 29. The Rattlers will host the United Bowl if it both advances to the title game and holds a better record than its opponent.

 

 

TUCSON, Arizona – The Tucson Sugars Skulls found the gap between the first-year franchise and the unbeaten Arizona Rattlers was still too far to travel in the third meeting between the two teams.

The Rattlers kept the Sugar Skulls offense out of the end zone on three straight possessions in the first half to build a 16-point lead and kept Tucson at a distance the rest of the way in a 62-47 victory before a crowd of 4,828 at Tucson Arena. It was the Sugar Skulls’ second-largest crowd of the season.

The loss tightens the playoff chase for the SugarSkulls who are 6-6 and in fifth place, one game ahead of Nebraska and Quad City. Six teams earn playoff berths.

The Sugar Skulls opened the scoring on a 13-yard pass from Jake Medlock to Jeremiah Harris. but Tucson managed only two field goals and turned the ball over on downs on their next three possessions. Meanwhile, the Rattlers scored a touchdown on every possession in the game except those at the end of the first half and the end of the game when they got the ball with only seconds left.

“We weren’t physical enough on either side of the ball,” said Head Coach Marcus Coleman. “To be frank I think they bullied us today. That’s what they do. They tackled well.  They covered us well.”

Rattlers quarterback Drew Powell was efficient throwing the ball and effective carrying it. He was13 of 15 for 180 yards and five touchdowns through the air. He led his team rushing with 83 yards and he ran for two more touchdowns.“

Beyond the physical things that he has and all the athleticism, in his mind, he feels like and he plays like he’s the best the player in the room,” Coleman said. “You can see it.”

The Sugar Skulls gave themselves a semblance of hope when Medlock and wide receiver Shaq Curenton connected on a 2-yard jump pass for a TD with 11 seconds left in the first half to cut theRattlers’ lead to nine. But Arizona scored on their first possession of second half, held the SugarSkulls to a missed field goal, and scored again to build a 41-19 lead. They were not threatened the rest of the way.

Tucson now heads into a bye week before facing the Rattlers for the fourth time this season when it travels to Phoenix on June 8.  The Sugar Skulls close the season with what now looks like a game that could be for a playoff berth when Quad City visits on June 15.“

It would mean a lot to the organization to be able to be in the playoffs,” Coleman said. “It would be great for the city. It would be great for the organization if we could finish this off and get into the playoffs and maybe host a game.

 Notes and Numbers

• With nine receptions, Jeremiah Harris has had multiple receptions in all four games he appeared in since joining the team four weeks ago.

• With two touchdown catches, Rico Brown has had four straight games with at least two TD receptions.

• Quarterback Jake Medlock threw five touchdown passes giving him 31 on the season. He entered the game fifth in the IFL in TD passes.

2019 Sugar Skulls Game Notes   Game 12   Arizona Page 01

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